It is lawful for the Father to do what He will with His own. Have we served Him only from selfish interest? Are we going to cling to Him only in the time of prosperity? Shall we not accept from His hand sorrow and suffering as well as joy?
It is, alas, true that many of the children of God, in one way or another, unconsciously perhaps, serve Him for the “good” they get in this present world, and in the world to come, rather than for Himself alone (God’s will first, then His work—NC). Both Christian and worldling stumble at the mystery of pain, and fail to understand, what a writer has so truly said, that “Pain has other and higher functions than penalty,” for “the outer man must be sacrificed in the interests of the man within and the world of man without, and unseen worlds beyond.”
It is true that we can share the comfort of God with others, only so far as we ourselves have realized it in our own lives. This was the secret of Paul’s tactful tenderness with suffering souls. He understood that he was being fitted by his afflictions to minister to others. ”Whether we be afflicted, it is for your comfort,” he writes to the Corinthians, and “whether we be comforted, it is for your comfort, which worketh in the patient enduring of the same suffering which we also suffer” (2Cor 1:6).
The Lord Jesus bore out sorrows, it is true, but it was that we might enter into His sorrows over the world and his people. He took the Cross to bring us into fellowship with Him in the Cross, and He gives us deliverance from our own burdens, so that we might be free to share His burden of souls, and, in our measure, fill up the afflictions of Christ for His Body’s sake, the Church. For this we need to be broken down on every side, so that we might lose the hardness that is ours in dealing with our fellow men.
No faithful servant of God has ever yet escaped the fiery trial. Even thus we are taught “the fellowship of His sufferings,” the Man of sorrows, and thus are made conformable to the image of the Lamb.
Thy Father is watching thee in the deep darkness where He hath brought thee; lie down and be still. Thou that fearest the Lord and walkest in darkness, stay thyself upon thy Father, seek not to kindle a fire by thine own efforts, but wait and thou shalt be blest with “blessings of the deep that coucheth beneath,” blessings that shall prevail “unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills” (Gen 49:25; 26).
It requires a very thorough surrender to the will of the Father, for any soul in the furnace of trial, never to look back with regret upon the past, nor forward with any wish (not hope—NC) to the future; and yet it is easy to see that such regrets or desires are not consistent with a true and complete abandonment of our whole being to our Father. We tend to occupy our minds with what we once were, and, apparently, are not now; or what we ought to be and seem not to be at the moment. Comparing ourselves with ourselves is a fatal hindrance to present rest in the will of our Father (2Co 10:12).
The time of youth, both in nature and in grace, is very beautiful. In the spiritual life it is lovely in fervor and freshness of love, but it has its crudities; its impulsiveness; it partiality; its assumption of knowledge and its one-sided vision. Beauty in fervor, devotion, energy and life, but it is the beauty of possibility, not fulfillment; the beauty of a flower that may come to ripened fruit when the petals fall away.
As we grow we will look back upon our past with grateful remembrance of the joy and bright light that shone upon our path. But we will see greater beauty in the matured faith that walks with the Father in calm and quiet trust, and the loveliness of the chastened spirit which can rest confidently in His wise and gentle workings in the world around, knowing that all things are being wrought after the counsel of His own blessed will (Eph 1:11).
The soul in the school of suffering is convicted by strong pain. Ah, how deep the conviction when the lessons of the All-wise Father are burnt in, as it were, by fire! The servant of God is face-to-face, with eternity. The “work” he has been withdrawn from disappears into the dim and fading past. The surrender to God in days of strength is tested. Does he truly desire the will of the Father above the work of the Father? Is he willing to be henceforth a broken vessel, so that the excellency of the power may be seen to be of God? Will he glory in his weakness that the power of Christ may rest upon him? Happy the souls who are ready to reply, “Most gladly, Lord!” “Most gladly, therefore, will I rather glory in my weaknesses, that the strength of Christ may cover me” (2Cor 12:9).
Without doubt there are depths in every soul only to be reached in the school of suffering, and they who shrink back from following their Lord in learning obedience by the things which they suffer, will remain unmellowed and untaught, in the richest and deepest knowledge of the Father.
There may be an inward and spiritual stripping of strength and power; a loss of keen desire for the spiritual bread; a pouring out of the soul even unto death; a detaching from the “work” and the things of earth, whilst in their very midst, known but to God alone. Be it in any way that He wills, the lesson of the crucible must be learned.
The servant of God must be taught to rejoice in the will of God, rather than the service of God; and to glory in weakness as a condition of knowing His divine strength brought to its full development of power. Yea, the faithful servant of God must even be willing to suffer many things for the sake of being fitted for ministry to other souls; even as it is written that the Lord Jesus Christ Himself in the glory, as our High Priest, is touched with the feeling of our weaknesses, because on earth He was in all points tried even as those He came to save.
The soul in the furnace is apt to think the Lord pays no heed to its cry, when it is simply unable to discern His silent working. He leads it out of its distress so softly and gently that it is almost unaware of all that He is doing. He is delivering the afflicted by affliction, and in adversity the ear is being opened to understand the faintest whisper of the Lord.
The soul knows not that it is being allured—or silently drawn out of its fettered position—into a broad place where there is no straitness of capacity; no narrowness of vision; no smallness of heart; no lack of spiritual food; for it shall be “abundantly satisfied with the fatness of His house” (Psa 36:8), and He will spread a table before His freed one in the very presence of his enemies.
Afflictions are in the hand of the Father to effect the softening of the heart in order to receive heavenly impression. Job said, “God maketh my heart soft: (23:16). As the wax in its naturally hard state cannot take the impression of the signet, and needs to be melted to render it susceptible, so the believer is by trials prepared to receive, and made to bear the Divine likeness.
MJS devotional excerpt for Aug 8
“Struggle and effort in themselves will never secure blessing, but by leading to despair and complete self-disgust they serve a divine purpose in the experience of the soul. I would rather see a soul in honest exercise, however legal he was, than see the light and careless acceptance of divine truth. I do not think God gives anything without preparing us for it by making us feel the need and value of it. It is a divine principle that ‘He satisfieth the longing soul’ (Ps. 107:9).” —Charles Andrew Coates (1862-1945)http://www.abideabove.com/hungry-heart/